Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Revelation 17:6b-18, The Great Harlot and the Beast Part 2 (The Study of the Apocalypse)

     And I marveled seeing her great wonder1. 7 And the angel said to me, “Why2 were you marveling at this? I will explain3 to you the secret4 of the woman and the beast which is carrying her; the one5 who has the seven heads and the ten horns. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up from the abyss and goes into destruction6. And the ones who dwell on the earth, whose names have not been written7 in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be amazed, seeing the beast because he was, and is not, and will be present. 9 Here is a mind which has wisdom8. The seven heads are seven mountains9, where the woman sits. And they are seven kings. 10 Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not come yet10. And when he comes, he must remain for a little while11. 11 And the beast who was, and is not, he is an eighth and he is of the seven, and goes into destruction.12 12 And the ten horns13 that you saw are ten kings14, who have not yet received a kingdom, but they will receive authority like a king for one hour with the beast. 13 These kings have one purpose and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These kings will make war with the lamb, but15 the lamb will conquer them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings. And the ones with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.16
     15 And he said to me, “The waters that you saw where the prostitute sits are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw and the beast will hate17 the prostitute and will make her desolate and naked and they will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.18 17 For God has given it into their hearts to do his purpose and to do one purpose, namely to give their kingdom to the beast untilGod’s words will be fulfilled. 18 And the woman who you saw is the great city which has the rule19 over the kings of the earth.”

1 John’s reaction is stunning! He was told that he would see the judgement of the great prostitute, but instead he has seen her in all of her wealth and glory! He is probably both in awe and disgusted with what he sees.

     I can’t imagine how I would react in John’s shoes. Surely he was in some state of bewilderment as he beheld all this revelation. It must have been quite a spectacle for him to marvel at this vision after all that preceded. Like we are today, John tries to make sense of what he sees.

2 διτί (why) 

Greek: “through what?” It’s an idiom. It is very similar to the english idiom “how come?”.

3 ρ(I will explain) 

or “I will tell”.

4 τμυστήριον (the secret) 

or “the mystery”.

5 Mounce** says that it is the same beast of chapter 13 (Pg. 309).

     The beast on which the woman sits is likened to mountains and waters. The woman is defined as the great city that rules over the earth, that is all those who reject the rule of God. It is out of the waters the beast arose and becomes a mountain through the strength and power of the dragon.

6 This is a parody on Christ in 1:18. There we have: ζν, καὶ ἐγενόμην νεκρς καὶ ἰδοζν εμι ες τος αἰῶνας τν αἰώνων (the one who lives. And I was dead and behold, I am living forever), but here we have: Τθηρίον...ν καοκ στιν καμέλλει ναβαίνειν κ τς βύσσου καες πώλειαν πάγει (The beast...was, and is not, and is about to come up from the abyss and goes into destruction). Instead of living forever as Jesus will, the beast “goes into destruction”. It is good to note that the “is not” refers to the point in time when the vision is being seen by John. The antichrist “is not” or not present at this time, but will come up again out of the abyss.

7 ν ογέγραπται τὸ ὄνομα (who don’t have their names written)

Greek: “whose name has not been written”. The phrase modifies οκατοικοντες πτς γς (the ones who dwell on the earth), but the case of τὸ ὄνομα (name) has shifted to the singular! The TR replaces τὸ ὄνομα with τὰ ὀνόματα (names) to help smooth out the bad Greek.

     It is by one name that salvation comes. We shall receive a new name, given by the One Who gives us new life. This name shall be written in the book of life.

8 A similar statement was used in 13:18. The same idea there applies here as well.

9 or “seven hills”. In ancient times, this always referred to Rome. Beale* also points out that mountains is used figuratively to connote strength. Mountains also symbolize kingdoms in the OT; Isaiah 2:2, Jeremiah 51:25; Ezekiel 35:3; Daniel 2:35; and Zechariah 4:7 (Pg. 868).

10 Where does one begin with the interpretation of the seven kings as there are so many views? Some scholars say they represent Roman emperors (Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian...) and others says they represent empires (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Roman...), but what has been the nature of this apocalyptic writing? Figurative symbolism! Perhaps the seven kings/kingdoms represent the “completeness” of the evil kings/kingdoms and the eighth one ushers in the eschaton. With that said, the imagery probably has its roots in Roman emperors. Osborne*** (Pgs. 617-621). Mounce** sees much of the same, but states that John isn’t interested in the actual number of Roman emperors, but sees the number seven as being the number of “completeness” (Pgs. 315-316). Beale* sees this as a parody on the three-fold expression on God in 1:8 which represents God’s existence throughout history. Here, the parody represents kings throughout history, “through whom the beast acts”. (Pg. 871).

11 λίγον ατν δεμεναι (he must remain for a little while

Greek: “it is necessary for him to remain a little”.

     We understand that all that has taken place and will take place in creation does so in the framework of time and God’s purpose. It serves but as a prologue to the end story which is the eternal glory of God.

12 Beale* see another mimicry of Christ based on the idea that “eighth” has a figurative meaning. He states that after six days of creation, God rests on the seventh day, thus the creation process ends on the seventh day and ushers in the eighth day which is when the operation of the new creation began. Christ died on the sixth day of the week, remained dead and buried through the seventh day and rose again on the “eighth day”, thus calling the beast the “eighth” is another way of mimicking Christ’s resurrection. (Pg. 875).

13 Allusions to Daniel 7:7-8; 20-25.

14 The background imagery is that of the Roman Empire as the Empire was broken up into ten provinces and appointed Governors over those provinces. Rome would also appoint “kings” in territories that it had conquered. Nevertheless, the ten are subordinate to the Emperor. Osborne*** (Pg. 621). Even with this background imagery, one should hold true to the figurative nature of Revelation. “Ten” here is probably figurative representing “completeness”. Mounce** (Pg. 317).

     Part of the lens and tools of perceiving the message contained in these words is to consider how God speaks through repetition and foreshadowing. Our understanding of future reality is informed by the reality of the past. An example used before is the calling out of Israel from Egypt and the promise of a new land. It foreshadows the church being called out of the world and a new creation.

     It can be difficult to correctly discern the message, and it is often impeded by an incorrect assumption that we know. Been there? I have. That same flawed thinking found its ultimate expression in the crucifixion of Jesus at the very hands of those most informed of Who He was. They prided themselves as God’s chosen people, who were entrusted with His word. For all that, they were not able to recognize the Word when it stood before them.

     At the time of this writing and place, Rome ruled all the world and embodied all that God is not, or antichrist. Some believe that the AntiChrist will rule again from Rome. Others make the case for the mideast as being the seat of the AntiChrist.

     One thing I think we might agree on is the growing apostasy and hostility of the world today toward the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ . We don’t have to look to a distant shore to see it happening. It is all around us.

     We are blessed in the assurance that Christ has overcome the world, first the flesh, then of all creation upon His return. He confirms it in this book.

15 κα(but)

Greek: “and”.

16 In other words, the ones who fight along side the lamb are believers.

17 οτοι μισήσουσιν (will hate)

Greek: “these will hate”. The angel makes sure that John knows that it is both the ten horns and the beast who will hate the woman.

18 An allusion to Ezekiel 23:25-29, 47 where the prophecy states that it is the apostate Jerusalem that is judged. There, the prophecy was fulfilled when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. Beale* (Pg. 883). Beale* also states that “Babylon” represents both the pagan world and the apostate church. (Pg. 885).
It is indeed interesting to note that the women is ultimately destroyed from civil war within this empire, but it should also be noted that it is God who puts the purpose in the hearts of the ten kings.

     It is in Him we move and have our being. All things serve His purpose.

19 βασιλείαν (rule) 

or “kingdom”.

NT = New Testament 
OT = Old Testament 
ESV = English Standard Version 
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version 
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A 
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV) 
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)

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